Losing Just a Few Extra Pounds May Improve Heart Health

Even a small amount of weight loss may help the heart work better.

someone lacing their shoes and getting ready to exercise

Updated on March 13, 2024.

Obesity or extra weight can put added strain on the heart. But research shows that losing even just a small amount weight, can help ease that burden and improve heart health. In fact, there is some evidence that losing as little as 5 percent of body weight could help reverse some of the unhealthy physical effects that obesity has on the heart muscle. So for someone that is 200 pounds, losing just 10 pounds could make a difference.

How extra weight affects the heart

Gaining extra pounds can affect the size of the heart and lead to thickening of the heart muscle. When the heart muscle gets too thick, it has a harder time pumping blood and relaxing between heartbeats. That could lead to problems like heart disease and heart failure (when the heart muscle is so damaged that it cannot pump blood efficiently enough to meet your body's needs).

But in a 2015 study of more than 2,300 people published in European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, imaging tests showed that every 5 percent weight loss resulted in a greater than 1 percent improvement in the heart's structure and function. The researchers also saw beneficial changes with even smaller amounts of weight loss.

Benefits of weight loss

Researchers aren't exactly sure how losing weight helps transform the heart muscle, but the benefits of weight loss to other health conditions may play a role. Weight loss can help lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation, and improve blood sugar control. All of these benefits may also protect the heart.

Article sources open article sources

Shah RV, Murthy VL, Abbasi SA, et al. Weight loss and progressive left ventricular remodelling: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2015;22(11):1408-1418.
Wilner B, Garg S, Ayers CR, et al. Dynamic Relation of Changes in Weight and Indices of Fat Distribution With Cardiac Structure and Function: The Dallas Heart Study. J Am Heart Assoc. 2017;6(7):e005897. Published 2017 Jul 19.

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